Five Ways to God's Love

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Saint Francis of Assisi at Prayer - by MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban - from O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp
(Saint Francis received the Stigmata, in Reward-for his Great Love of God)

 

Our Greatest Fault is that we wish to Serve God in our Way, not in His Way -- according to our Will, not according to His Will. When He wishes us to be Sick, we wish to be Well; when He desires us to Serve Him by Sufferings, we desire to Serve Him by Works; when He wishes us to Exercise Charity, we wish to Exercise Humility; when He seeks from us Resignation, we wish for Devotion, a Spirit of Prayer or some other Virtue. And this is not because the things we Desire may be more Pleasing to Him, but because they are more to our Taste. This is certainly the Greatest Obstacle we can Raise to our own Perfection, for it is beyond Doubt, that if we were to Wish-to be Saints according-to our own Will, we shall never be so at all. To be Truly a Saint, it is necessary to be One, according-to the Will of God.

Saint Francis de Sales

 

Five Ways to God's Love

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori

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Blessed, in-short, is that Soul which can Truly-say, "My Lover belongs to me, and I to Him" (Song 2:16). My God has given Himself entirely-to me, and I have given Myself entirely-to Him. I am no-longer my Own; I Belong entirely-to my God. Saint Bernard says that whoever can say this from his Heart, would most 'Readily' and 'Willingly' Embrace all the Pains of Hell (provided that he could do-so without Separating himself from God) rather than see himself, even for One (1) Single Moment, Disunited-from God: "It would be more-Tolerable to such a One, to Suffer Hell, than to Withdraw from Him". What a Beautiful Treasure, is the Treasure-of Divine Love! He who Possesses it, is Happy indeed. Let him take every-Care, and make use of all the 'Means' which are Necessary, to 'Preserve' and 'Increase' it. He who does not yet Possess it, ought to use every 'Means', in-order-to Acquire it. Here are Five (5) 'Ways', or 'Means', to-Gain God's Love.

 

Detachment from Worldly Affections

The First (1st) of these 'Means', is the Detachment-of Oneself from Worldly Affections. In a Heart which is Full-of the World, no-Room can be Found-for the Love of God. The more the Worldly Element 'Predominates', so-much-the-less, does the Divine Love hold-Sway. Therefore, he who Desires-to have his Heart filled-with Divine Love, should Remove-from it, all that is of the World. To become Saints, we must Follow the Example-of Saint Paul who, so that he might Gain the Love of Jesus Christ, Despised as-Nothing, all the Good Things of this World (Philippians 3:8). Let us Pray the Holy Spirit, to 'Enkindle'-within us His Holy Love, for then we too shall 'Despise' and 'Reckon'-as mere- Vanity, all this World's 'Riches', 'Pleasures', 'Honors', and 'Distinctions', for the Sake-of-which, Men Suffer Eternal (∞) Destruction.

Whenever Holy Love enters-into the Heart, it no-longer regards, as-of any-Value, all that the World holds-Dear. Saint Francis-de-Sales observes that when a House is in-Flames, the Goods are all thrown-out through the Windows, meaning that, when the Heart is on-Fire with Divine Love, a Man does not Need the Preachings and Exhortations-of a Spiritual Father; but of his own-Accord, sets-to Work-to-Divest himself of the Good Things of this World, in-order-that he may Love Nothing, but God. Saint Catherine-of-Genoa used to say that she did not Love God, for the Sake-of His Gifts, but that she Loved the Gifts-of God, so that she might Love Him more.

How Hard it is, for the Lover, to 'Divide' his Heart between Christ and the World! Saint Bernard says that the Divine Love is, on the other-hand, 'Exclusive', because God will not Permit, that-in this Heart which Loves, there should be Others, to Share-with Him in its Love. Does God Claim too-much, in Wishing that a Soul should Love Him, and Him alone? "The Sovereign Loveliness", observes Saint Bonaventure, ought to be Loved Exclusively". Such a One as God, Whose Loveliness and Goodness are Infinite (∞), and Worthy-of an Infinite (∞) Love, has a 'Just Claim', to be alone-in His Possession-of the Love-of a Heart, Created-by Himself. In order that He might be Loved 'Exclusively', He has gone so-far-as to expend Himself Wholly, for that Heart. As Saint Bernard says, when Speaking-of himself and of the Love which Jesus Christ had Borne-toward him: "He was Utterly Spent, for my Benefit". What each one of us can most-Truly say, when Thinking-of Jesus Christ, is that for each one of us, He has Sacrificed all His Life and all His Blood, Dying upon a Cross. And, although His Death is 'Past', He has left us His Body and His Blood, His Soul and His Whole Self, in the Sacrament-of-the-Altar, that it may be the 'Meat' and 'Drink' of our Souls, and that we may each, be United-to Him.

Mary, a 'Garden Enclosed' (Hortus Conclusus) -
by UNKNOWN MASTER, German -
from Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt
(Click to enlarge)
 

Happy is the Soul, which has Arrived-at a 'State', wherein everything is Intolerable, except the God Whom it Loves. We must, then, be on our Guard, against Setting our Affections-on Creatures, lest they Steal-from us a Portion-of the Love which God Wishes to be entirely His Own. Even when such Affections are 'Right', as in the Case-of those we Feel-toward Parents or Friends, we should never Forget the Saying-of Saint Philip-Neri, that whatever Love we have for Creatures, is so much, taken-away-from God.

We should, therefore, try to make ourselves "Enclosed Gardens" as the Bride, in the 'Song-of-Songs', was called-by her 'Lover'. The Title-of "an Enclosed Garden", applies-to that Soul, which keeps itself Closed-up against the Entrance-of all mere Earthly Affections. Whenever, therefore, any Creature seeks-to Enter-in and to Lay-hold-of a Portion-of our Heart, we must Refuse it Admission. Then we ought-to turn-to Jesus Christ, and say-to Him: My Jesus, You alone are Sufficient-for me. I do not Wish-to Love anyone, but You. You are the God of my Heart, and the God that is my Portion Forever (∞). On this Account, let us not-cease Praying-to God, that He would Bestow-upon us the Gift-of His Pure Love; since, as Saint Francis-de-Sales observes, "The Pure Love of God, Consumes all that is not God, to Transform everything into Itself".

 

Meditation on the Passion of Christ

Christ on the Cross between the Two Thieves -
by RUBENS, Pieter Pauwel -
from Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

During the Piercing of His Heart by a Lance,
Jesus Shed the Last Drop of His Blood, to Wash-away our Sins.
 

Meditation-on the Passion-of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the Second (2nd) 'Means'-for Acquiring Divine Love. It is certain that Jesus Christ is so-little Loved in the World, because-of the Negligence and Ingratitude-of Mankind, and because Men do not-Consider, at-least Occasionally, how much He has Suffered for us. "To Mankind it has appeared Foolish", as Saint Gregory observes, "that God should Die for us". It seems Folly, says the Saint, that God should have been Willing-to Die, in-order-to Save us; yet He did so. He has Loved us, and Delivered Himself for us. And He has Shed all His Blood, in-order-to Wash-away our Sins.

Saint Bonaventure says, "My God, You have Loved me so much, that You seem to have gone so-far-as even to have Hated Yourself". Besides, He has Willed that He Himself should be our Food, in Holy Communion. Saint Thomas, speaking-of the Blessed Sacrament, says that God has so-Humbled Himself with us, that it is as if He were our Servant, and each of us, His God.

"The Love of Christ Impels us" (2Corinthians 5:14). Saint Paul says that the Love which Jesus Christ has 'Borne' us, 'Forces' us, in a Certain-sense, to Love Him. My God, what is there that Men will not do out-of Love for some Creature, on which they have 'Set' their Affections! And how 'Little' is their Love for One Who is God, Whose Goodness and Loveliness are Infinite (∞), and Who has even gone so-far as-to Die-on a Cross, for each of us! Let us follow the Example-of Saint Paul who said: "May I never Boast of anything, but the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14). So spoke the Holy Apostle, and what Greater Glory, can I Hope for in the World, than that of having had a God to Sacrifice His Life for me? This is what everyone who has Faith must say; if he has Faith, how can it be possible-for him to Love anything, other than God? How can a Soul, Contemplating Jesus Crucified, as He Hangs suspended-on Three (3) Nails, and Dies because of His Love for us, not see itself 'Drawn' and, as it were, 'Forced'-to Love Him with all its Powers?

 

Conformity to God's Will


The Agony in the Garden -
by Greco, El -
from Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio
(Click Image to Enlarge)


Mt:26:39 - And going a little further, He fell upon His Face, Praying and Saying: My Father, if it be possible, let this Chalice pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I Will, but as Thou Wilt. (DRV)

 

 

The Third (3rd) 'Means'-of Gaining a Perfect Love of God, is the bringing-of our own Will into Conformity-with the Divine Will, in all things. Saint Bernard says that he who Loves God perfectly, "cannot Will anything, except that which God Wills". There are many who Profess themselves to be Thoroughly Resigned-to whatever God Wills, but when any Adverse Circumstance, or any Sickness befalls them, they cannot Retain their Peace-of-Mind. It is not-so, with Souls, in a State-of True Conformity. They say, "Thus it Pleases Him Whom I Love", and they are Immediately-at-Rest. "To Holy Love", says Saint Bonaventure, "all things are Sweet". These Souls know that everything, which Happens-in the World, is either 'Ordered' or 'Permitted' by God. Consequently, in all that comes-to-pass, they Humbly Bow their Heads, and Live Contented-with, what God 'Assigns'. Although it is frequently the Case that He does not Will that those who Persecute and Injure us should do so, yet He nevertheless Wills, and for Wise Ends, that we should Suffer-with Patience, the Persecution or the Injury, by-which we are Afflicted.

Saint Catherine-of-Genoa used to say, "If God had Placed me in the Depths of Hell, I would sincerely have said, it is Good for us to be here". I would have said, it is enough for me that I am here by the Will-of Him Whom I Love, Who Loves me more-than all others do, and Who knows what is Best-for me. Sweet is the Rest, of those who Rest-in the Arms-of the Divine-Will.

Saint Teresa says the Great Thing to be Acquired-by, One who Practices the Habit-of Prayer is the Conformity-of his own Will, with the Divine, for in that, Consists the Highest Perfection. Therefore, we must be-ever Repeating-to God, that Prayer-of David: "Teach me to do Your Will" (Psalm 143:10). The most Perfect Act of Love, which a Soul can Perform-toward God, is to ask, "Lord, what Will You, have me to do?" This ought to be the Object-of all our 'Works', 'Desires', and 'Prayers', the Accomplishment-of the Divine Will. We ought to Beg our Blessed Mother, our Patron Saints and Guardian Angels, to Obtain-for us the Grace to-Fulfill the Will-of-God. And whenever things which are Opposed-to our Self-love, befall us, we may then by One (1) Act-of-Resignation, gain Treasures-of-Merit. Let us Accustom ourselves on such Occasions, to-Repeat those Words which Jesus Himself has, by His own Example, Taught us: "Am I not to Drink the Cup the Father has given Me?" (John 18:11). Or, like Job, let us say: "The Lord Gave and the Lord has Taken-away; Blessed be the Name of the Lord!" (Job 1:21). A Single (1) "Blessed be God", under Adverse Circumstances, is Worth-more-than a Thousand 'Thanksgivings', when things go-Smoothly. And here we may say again: Beautiful is the Rest-of those who Rest themselves in the Arms-of the Will-of-God. For, "No Harm befalls the Just" (Proverbs 12:21).

 

Use of Mental Prayer


The Meditation on the Passion -
by CARPACCIO, Vittore -
from Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Saint Jerome (left) and Job of the Old Testament, sit in Mental Contemplation of the Passion of the Dead Christ.
 

The Fourth (4th) 'Means'-for becoming Enamored-of God is Mental Prayer. The Eternal Truths are not Discernible-by the Natural Eye, like the things which are Visible-in this World. They are to be Discerned Solely, by-'Means'-of Meditation and Contemplation. Therefore, unless we Pause, for a Certain Length-of Time, in-order-to Consider the Eternal Truths, and more especially our Obligation-to Love God, we shall hardly 'Loose' ourselves from the Love-of-Creatures, to Fix our Whole Love, on God. It is in the Time-of Prayer, that we Understand the 'Worthlessness'-of Earthly Things, and the 'Value'-of the Good Things of Heaven. It is then that God Inflames-with His Love, those Hearts which do not Offer Resistance-to His Calls.

There are many, however, who 'Complain' that they Go-to Prayer, and do not 'Find' God. The Reason is that they Carry-with them, a Heart Full-of-Earth. 'Detach' the Heart from Creatures, says Saint Teresa, 'Seek' God, and you will 'Find' Him: "Good, is the Lord to the Soul that Seeks Him" (Lamentations 3:25). Therefore, to 'Find' God in Prayer, the Soul must be Stripped-of its Love-for the Things-of-Earth; then God will Speak-to it: "I will Lead her into the Desert, and Speak to her Heart" (Hosea 2:16).

But, in-order-to 'Find' God, Physical Solitude is not-enough; that-of the Heart, is Necessary too. The Lord One day, said-to Saint Teresa: "I would Willingly Speak to many Souls, but the World makes such a Noise in their Hearts, that My Voice cannot make itself heard". When a Detached Soul is Engaged-in Prayer, Truly does God Speak-to it, and make it Understand the Love which He has Borne it. Then the Soul, Burning-with Holy Love, Speaks not. But, in that Silence, how much does it say! The Silence-of Charity says more to God than could be said-by the Greatest Powers-of Human Eloquence: each Sigh that it Utters, is a Manifestation-of its Whole Interior. It then seems as if it could not Repeat, often enough: "My Beloved to me, and I to Him".

 

Use of Regular Prayer

The Fifth (5th) 'Means'-of Attaining-to a High Degree-of Divine Love is Ordinary Prayer. We are Poor in All-things; but if we Pray, we are Rich in All-things, for God has Promised to 'Grant' the Prayer of him who Prays. He says: "Ask, and you will Receive" (Matthew 7:7). What Greater Love can One Friend show toward Another, than to say to him, "Ask of me what you Will, and I will give it to you"? This is what the Lord says to each one of us. God is Lord of All-things. He Promises to give us as-much-as we Ask. If, then, we are Poor, the Fault is our own, because we do not Ask Him for the Graces which we Need. It is because of this, that Mental Prayer is Morally necessary-for all: for when Prayer is Laid-aside, while we are Involved-in this World's Cares, we pay too-little Attention-to the Soul; but when we Pray, we discover the Needs-of the Soul and then Ask-for the Corresponding Graces, and Obtain them.

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Detail - Crucifixion -
by CRANACH, Lucas the Elder -
from Alte Pinakothek, Munich
 

The Whole Life of a Saint is One-of Meditation and Prayer. All the Graces, by-means-of which they have become Saints, were Received-by them, in Answer-to their Prayers. If, therefore, we would be Saved and become Saints, we should Knock Perseveringly at the Gates-of the Divine Mercy, to Beg and Pray for all that we Need. We Need Humility: let us Ask-for it, and we shall be Humble. We need Patience under Tribulation: let us Ask-for it, and we shall be Patient. Divine Love is what we Desire: let us Ask-for it, and we shall Obtain it. "Ask, and you will Receive" is God's Promise, which cannot Fail. And Jesus Christ, in-order-to Inspire us with Greater Confidence-in our Prayers, has Promised us that whatever Graces we shall Ask-of the Father in His Name, the Father will Give us all of them: "Whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in My Name" (John 16:23). And in another Place, He says: "Anything you ask Me in My Name, I will do" (John 14:14). Let a Soul be as Cold as it can be, in Divine Love; if it has Faith, I do not know how it is Possible-for it not to feel Urged-to Love Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us of the Love which He has Manifested-toward us in His Passion, and in the most Holy-Sacrament-of-the-Altar. As regards His Passion, we Read-in Isaiah: "It was our Infirmities that He Bore, our Sufferings that He Endured" (53:4), and in the Verse which follows: "He was Pierced-for our Offenses, Crushed-for our Sins". Jesus Christ has Willed-to Suffer in His Own Person, our Pains and Afflictions, to Set us Free. And why has He done so, if not for His Love for us? "Christ Loved you. He gave Himself for us" (Ephesians 5:2), Saint Paul says. And Saint John<: "Christ Loves us and Freed us from our Sins, by His Own Blood" (Revelation 1:5). While with-respect-to the Sacrament-of-the-Eucharist, it was Jesus Himself Who said to us all, when He Instituted it, "This is My Body, which is for you" (1Corinthians 11:24). And in another Passage: "The Man who feeds on My Flesh, and drinks My Blood, remains in Me, and I in him" (John 6:56). How can anyone who has Faith, Read this without feeling himself, as-it-were, 'Forced' to Love his Redeemer Who, after having Sacrificed His Blood and Life, out of Love for him, has left him His Own Body in the Sacrament-of-the-Altar, to be the Food-of his Soul? Let us conclude with this Brief Reflection-on the Passion-of Jesus Christ. He shows Himself to us on the Cross, Pierced by Three (3) Nails, Agonizing in the Pangs-of-Death. Why all this Suffering? Is it, perhaps, that we might Pity Him? No, it is not so-much-to Gain our Compassion, as to-become the Object-of our Love, that He has 'Reduced' Himself to such a State. It should have been enough to Secure our Love, had He Shown us that His Love for us, is from-all Eternity (∞): "With Age-old Love, I have Loved you" (Jeremiah 31:3). But seeing that this was not enough-for our 'Lukewarmness', the Lord has given us a Practical Demonstration-of His Love: We see Him covered-with Wounds, Dying-of Anguish through His Love for us, that by-means-of His Sufferings, we might Understand the Immensity and Tenderness-of the Love, which He has for each of us.


Indifference to God's Love - The Lord, One-Day said-to Saint Teresa:
"I would Willingly Speak to many Souls, but the World makes such a Noise in their Hearts,
that My Voice cannot make itself heard
".

 

Prayer

O Lord, I give myself Wholly to You, and if I do not know how to make the Gift as Perfect as I ought, do it Yourself.

And what would I Love, my Jesus, if I do not Love You, Who have Died-for me? Since You have Called me to Your Love, Enable me to Please You as You Desire.

And what would I Love, but You Who are Infinite Goodness, deserving Infinite Love? You have Inspired me with the Desire of being entirely Yours; make the Work complete! And what would I have in this World but You, Who are the Sovereign Good? I give myself to You without Reserve; Accept me, and Give me the Strength to be Faithful till Death. I Wish to Love You Greatly in this Life, that I may Love You Greatly, for all Eternity.

Amen